PUBG Maker Krafton Under Investigation in Korea for the Controversial Loot Boxes

PUBG: Battlegrounds Starseed: Asnia Trigger

Recently, the South Korean regulator – the Korean Fair Trade Commission (KFTC) has launched an investigation into two major game developers –

  • Krafton (PUBG: Battlegrounds)
  • Com2uS (Starseed: Asnia Trigger)

According to Korean news outlet Hankyung, the regulatory authority is investigating allegations of “manipulation and misleading representations of probability-based items.

KFTC officials raided the offices of these companies to secure data related to the drop rates of items obtained from loot boxes in their games.

Previously, KFTC has investigated other big names like Nexon (MapleStory), NCSoft (known for MMOs), and Gravity (Ragnarok Online operator) for the same reasons.

Nexon was even hit with a staggering $8.9 Million fine for manipulation of about in-game items in its popular games, MapleStory and Bubble Fighter.




What are Loot Boxes, and Why are They Controversial?

For those who don’t know, loot boxes are in-game mystery boxes that are bought through in-game currency or real currency, not knowing what’s inside.

It might include any type of skin, or it could be a rare, powerful item, or perhaps something common and less valuable.

This makes it addictive as players continue to buy it hoping for some big skins in the process.

This uncertainty has led many to compare these loot boxes to gambling, especially concerning when kids are involved.

This is the reason why the South Korean government amended The Game Industry Promotion Act (GIPA) last year and ordered developers to disclose detailed information on the probabilities of obtaining items from various types of loot boxes by March 2024.

Recent raids aim to check if these companies have been manipulating or falsely describing the probabilities of items obtained through loot boxes.




PUBG’s Complicated History with Loot Boxes

While PUBG: Battlegrounds removed paid loot boxes from the base game in 2019, Krafton has continued to introduce crate and key-like systems for cosmetic items.

However, the mobile version (PUBG Mobile) still heavily relies on loot boxes purchased with in-game currency for obtaining cosmetics and rare items.

Gacha Mechanics in Starseed: Asnia Trigger

The mobile RPG Starseed: Asnia Trigger, published by Com2uS, follows the popular “gacha” model where players build their party by obtaining characters from randomized loot boxes.

Drop rates for rare characters are often hidden or unclear in such games.




Global Crackdown on Loot Boxes

This is not the first time we have seen a loot box crackdown in recent times.

Many countries have raised concerns over loot boxes being a form of gambling, targeting children, and employing deceptive practices:

  • Spain announced plans to regulate video game loot boxes in 2022.
  • The UK has faced repeated calls to ban the sale of “harmful” loot boxes to under-18s.
  • Some developers like Blizzard have moved away from loot boxes (Overwatch 2).

However, the video game industry still heavily relies on loot boxes as a revenue stream.

South Korea seems to be taking an aggressive stance by directly investigating major publishers over loot box transparency and drop rate accuracy.

(Source: Korean news site Hankyung, KFTC press releases)


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